Photograph by S.R. Brantley in September 1983
Mud volcano in the Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The mud volcano is about 40 cm tall.
A mud volcano is a small volcano-shaped cone of mud and clay, usually less than 1-2 m tall. These small mud volcanoes are built by a mixture of hot water and fine sediment (mud and clay) that either (1) pours gently from a vent in the ground like a fluid lava flow; or (2) is ejected into the air like a lava fountain by escaping volcanic gas and boiling water. The fine mud and clay typically originates from solid rock--volcanic gases and heat escaping from magma deep below turn groundwater into a hot acidic mixture that chemically changes the rock into mud- and clay-sized fragments.